SHOW PREVIEW – Computers in manufacturing ’98

The manufacturing industry has the second IT spend of all UK vertical market sectors, only bettered by finance. This year, according to market analyst Benchmark Research, manufacturers in the UK will spend around #3.2bn on IT. This huge figure is explained by the pressures on today’s manufacturers, facing as they do competition on an increasingly global scale, the emergence of new markets and the continued drive for shorter lead times and more tightly controlled costs.

It also helps to explain the significance of Computers in Manufacturing (CIM) ’98, the UK’s main event dedicated to IT in the manufacturing sector.

Last year, organiser Independent Exhibitions reported some 15,712 visitors, a figure up 40 percent on 1996, with some 67 percent of visitors at board level within their organisations. These statistics alone make it one of the biggest and most significant UK IT shows serving any industry, with a visitor profile that generalist IT events like Networks and the Windows show can only gawp at. Three quarters of last year’s visitors, for example, said that CIM is the only event they attend all year, only 600 of them saying they also went to Networks ’97.

The show’s structure is frankly quite complex, reflecting the organisers’ wish to address a spectrum of needs. The core part of the event is dedicated to so-called “heartland” technologies, such as computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP), shop floor data capture, and IT infrastructure.

This year, there are also no less than five new “sister” shows, which will be simultaneous with the main event, each focused on a specific area of the market. The five are Networks in Manufacturing, Control Systems Integration, Process, Product Data Management (PDM) and Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM).

All these extra events, say organisers, came about in response to research projects into the interests of manufacturing IT decision makers. At last year’s event, for example, research shows that 40 percent of delegates were specifically interested in networking products and services, hence Networks in Manufacturing.

Organisers have also spotlighted a selection of key issues that will be addressed in various ways throughout the event: Leaders and Laggards, an examination of how the traditional model of manufacturing industry as follower not leader is changing, Year 2000 and EMU.

Unsurprisingly, the Internet rears its head as another major theme.

Some 50 percent of IT users within the industry, about 200,000 people in total, now use the Internet daily, and a third use it regularly for exchanging technical data. The show will feature a Net Pavilion where information on the Internet, as well as intranet and extranet technologies, will be on hand. Organisers promise that it will not be a straight pitch in favour of any technology, but will focus as much on “why” as “how to”.

Additionally, CIM ’98 will address the topic of PC versus NC. In no sector is the debate about the merits of thin client computing more fiercely contested than in manufacturing, with its need for a network strategy that delivers highly economic computing to widely distributed user bases.

But is the Network Computer really the answer? And if so, then which flavour of thin client has the most promising future?

Vendors present at the main event will include all the big names, like Baan, Cognos, JBA, Kewill Systems, Pegasus, SAP and Tetra. SAP in particular, the biggest vendor in attendance, will have live demonstrations of industry specific applications including consumer packaged goods, manufacturing discrete and general engineering. The SAP Management Arena on stand 620 will feature seminars on a variety of industry themes.

Finally, when any management consultants among the delegates are in need of recharging their batteries, there will be an exclusive lounge co-sponsored by Management Consultancy magazine and the MK Group. When you register for the event, putting consultant in the job title box will automatically qualify you for a ticket to the lounge. In it you will find exhibitor brochures, magazines and refreshments which you can enjoy in a calm atmosphere.

Guy Matthews is a freelance journalist.

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